Building an email list is an essential part of marking a brand.
But, as you can imagine, people don’t typically scour the web looking for email lists to join. Your future subscribers need a reason to subscribe.
That reason is something we call a “lead magnet.”
The concept is simple. Give someone a reason to subscribe. But what does that look like?
A lead magnet is usually something valuable and easily downloadable.
But, many lead magnets simply don’t convert. For one reason or another, these lead magnets fail to convince visitors to become subscribers.
My objective in this post is to give you an overview of the lead magnet creation process and help you understand what it takes to create an opt-in offer that converts.
Why your website needs a lead magnet
Simply asking someone to subscribe isn’t enough. No doubt you’ve seen buttons and opt-in forms on countless websites asking visitors to subscribe for a newsletter.
But let’s be real. That doesn’t work well.
Unless you already have a massive following, that sort of tactic will get you a horrible conversion rate.
In other words, very few people will actually subscribe.
Why? Because you’ve given your visitor absolutely no incentive to become your subscriber.
A lead magnet is a powerful incentive.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
It could be something as simple as a checklist or as in-depth as an eBook or video series.
But this works well for a very simple reason: People love free stuff. No matter what your niche happens to be – no matter what your field – people love getting value for free.
Making sure your lead magnet converts
Just giving away something for free isn’t enough. Your lead magnet needs to be awesome if it’s going to be something your future subscriber will want.
Your potential subscriber likely visits other sites in your niche – your competitors. What’s to set your lead magnet apart from theirs?
What makes a great lead magnet great? It’s vital that you understand that characteristics of a good lead magnet.
The kind of lead magnet you want to create is one that…
Solves a problem or answers a question.
Think about people in your field – your potential clients. What do they want? What questions do they have? What are their problems? Their desires? Their fears?
A great lead magnet is one that directly addresses the needs and wants of your target audience.
This does, of course, require some research on your part. Learn what your target customers are looking for. Your task is to create content that speaks to their needs.
Helps someone achieve something
Similarly, a great lead magnet will help someone achieve something he or she wants to achieve. For example, let’s consider someone in the health and fitness niche. If your target is primarily people from 25 to 45 who want to lose weight and get in shape, how can you help?
What’s something quick and simple that you could put together to offer as a free download? How about a checklist of exercises shown to trim belly fat? How about ways to strengthen one’s upper body? Both are things that someone in that niche would likely want to know how to do.
Focuses on one thing
Your lead magnet should focus on one problem or one answer. Don’t try to solve all the world’s problems with a single free download. Focus on one issue your target audience faces. One question. One problem. Answer that one need well.
Is easy to read and digest
Even if your lead magnet covers a dense, technical topic, be careful to communicate on a level that your audience can understand. Your lead magnet content should be easily accessible and understandable by your audience.
That doesn’t mean you can’t cover technical topics in depth, but as you do, be sure to choose your words carefully and organize your information in such a way that anyone can easily understand what you’re trying to say.
Is very high quality
Quality is critical. Even helpful information can be conveyed sloppily or lazily. Don’t fall into that trap. Ensure your information rocks, and make sure your presentation is well thought out, organized and thorough.
Provides instant gratification
People love instant gratification. They want what they want right now. Your lead magnet should cut right to the chase. Give your new subscriber what he came for right away.
Your lead magnet should be accessible quickly. Don’t make people wait to get what you’ve promised.
Demonstrates your expertise
Your lead magnet should demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about. No matter what your niche is, show that you’re a subject matter expert. By providing helpful, high quality content, you establish yourself as someone who is able to help others.
As people come to recognize that you’re the expert, they will be more willing to come to you with their needs.
For example, as someone who teaches others how to build an email list, I want to ensure that others see that I know what I’m talking about when I talk about list building. To that end, I need to make sure every bit of content I produce is helpful, complete and valuable.
Lead magnet ideas and examples
The type of lead magnet you produce will depend, in large part, on your niche and the kind of content you like to produce.
Before you create a lead magnet, make sure you understand the types of lead magnets and choose the type with which you are most comfortable.
The cheat sheet lead magnet
Cheat sheets are simple and to the point. These lead magnets are typically one or two pages and provide fast information.
A cheat sheet is packed full of information that will be immediately helpful to its reader.
Below is an example from my friend Sasha. She presents a lot of information in one easy to follow guide that is designed to walk the reader through what he or she needs to know
Sometimes text just won’t cut it. If you’re comfortable appearing on camera (or at least on-mic), a video may be just what the email list ordered.
Videos go beyond text and static images and communicate in a much more engaging way.
A video lead magnet often has a higher perceived value than text. On the flip side, video can be a bit more difficult to create, and not everyone feels comfortable appearing on camera.
Audio files (Podcasts / MP3s)
If you don’t need a visual component, audio can be awesome. If your target customer is someone who doesn’t have the time (or desire) to watch a video, he might be more interested in something he can listen to on the road or as time allows.
This is great for busy people who want to listen to what you have to say.
An audio lead magnet could be something as short as an audio version of a popular post or as long as an audio book.
The live webinar
Webinars are awesome for building hype. Visitors are invited to attend a live presentation on a topic. In order to view the webinar, users must register by providing a name and email address. When they do so, they’re subscribed to an email list.
Webinars work well for two reasons:
- People subscribe in the days leading up to the webinar. In that time, you could send out reminder emails. Introduce yourself and get people excited.
- During the webinar, people can ask questions and get answers in real time. This is a powerful tool for building a relationship with your new subscribers.
A webinar requires a special tool like Zoom, GoToWebinar, Webex, etc and a strong, reliable Internet connection. These tools usually cost a bit extra, so hosting a webinar isn’t for everyone.
You also need to be comfortable on camera. If you’re not, you might want to stick to another type of lead magnet.
Webinar replay archives
Webinars are great, but not everyone can set aside a specific day and time and commit to attending. For them, there are webinar replays.
You can easily create an archive of your past webinars (or webinar if you only have one) and allow access in exchange for an opt-in.
Giveaways give visitors a chance to win something. If you have branded merchandise, this can be a great lead magnet.
Visitors can enter to win by entering a name and email address. Upon entry, they are entered into the drawing. Visitors are notified by email.
Now, of course, this means you’re spending a bit of money on a physical product and shipping, but people do love getting free stuff. Many people will join just for the chance to win.
Value-packed eBook lead magnet
I love to write, so I love giving away eBooks. In fact, my most successful lead magnets have been eBooks.
These are long-form written documents that cover a topic. For example, one of my eBooks is over 57 pages. That’s a lot of content, but it covers the topic very thoroughly.
Now, I’m not saying you have to write that much (or even should) but this kind of content is value-packed and a great opt-in incentive.
Checklists make some of the best lead magnets. They’re fast and easy to create and convert very well.
Unlike long-form eBooks, checklists are quickly understood and digested. While a long eBook provides value, not everyone will want to take the time to read what you have to say. Instead, they prefer something that cuts right to the chase.
“Just tell me what I need to know, man.”
These checklists are designed to walk someone through a series of steps toward a goal. Everything your reader needs to know is crammed into this one, actionable, easy to follow list.
People love talking about themselves. Give them a quiz, and they’ll go to town. Ask for a name and email address in order to view the results, or consider sending the results via email.
My friend Sasha at Life’s Carousel has a well-designed quiz that follows this formula. She has visitors fill out a decently long quiz and then asks for an opt-in. Head over to her balanced life quiz to see how she has that set up.
If you’re holding a live event, consider giving away tickets in exchange for an opt-in.
Be careful, though. Don’t give away expensive event tickets to each and every subscriber. If you’re having to pay more than a few bucks for a subscriber to attend an event, consider using a giveaway instead.
Printables are lead magnets that are designed to be… well… printed and used. These can be anything from birthday cards, to calendars, to organizational tools.
I have found that printables tend to be more popular among women and those with children, but they are worth exploring for other demographics.
A printable makes a great lead magnet because it provides immediate value and can be put to use right away. That’s exactly what we want.
My friend Shikah Anuar has several good printable examples on her website.
I love email courses. Unlike most of the other types of lead magnets, an email course doesn’t require you to offer anything as a download. Instead, an email course can be delivered as a multi-day email sequence through your email service provider.
Essentially, an email course is simply an autoresponder series that delivers value.
An email course makes a great lead magnet for a couple of reasons:
- This type of lead magnet is very easy to create and requires no downloads.
- This type of lead magnet gets people used to checking for and reading your emails.
For example, ListBootcamp is one of my products that teaches how to build an email list. Over a period of 23 days, subscribers are taught the ins and outs of email marketing.
Do you have multiple free products that would work as lead magnets? Create a password-protected product library and give the password to subscribers. This resource library provides insane value for one simple opt-in.
A resource library is a great way to provide serious value to your visitors using the lead magnets you’ve already spent time building.
The contents of a resource library should be fantastic, but a resource library really shines as a lead magnet because of the fantastic perceived value to your target customer. Not only is he getting one lead magnet. He’s getting a whole library. That’s awesome.
A membership site is a special members-only site that offers continual value. Creating a membership site is easier than ever with one of the many WordPress-based tools available.
Some of the best membership site plugins include:
- Restrict Content Pro
- Paid Memberships Pro
- WooCommerce Memberships
- aMember Pro
- Wishlist Member
Membership sites work great as lead magnets because they offer great value for something as simple as an email opt-in.
Discounts and Coupons
If you sell products, consider occasionally offering a purchase discount in exchange for an opt-in. While not a free product, a discount works as a lead magnet because it saves your target customer money. And who doesn’t love saving money?
Discounts and coupons seem to have a love/hate relationship among marketers. On one hand, they do help you build a list. On the other, there is a chance of devaluing your products. I would use this type of lead magnet sparingly.
Tools for creating a lead magnet
Hopefully you now have a few ideas for your lead magnet. In this next section, I’d like to cover some of the tools I have found helpful for creating a converting lead magnet that your subscribers will love.
Now, the exact tools you use will depend on the type of lead magnet you create.
We’ll cover tools for creating each of the major types of lead magnet.
Tools for Creating PDF Lead Magnets (eBooks, checklists, guides, printables, etc)
These tools are ideal for creating text-based lead magnets.
This is Google’s version of a word processor. It’s free but very capable. In fact, this post was written using Google Docs. I love using Google Docs (and Google Drive) because I can access my files from anywhere and with any computer – Mac, Windows, or Linux. There are apps for iOS and Android as well.
Word is Microsoft’s version of a word processor. If you prefer to write files directly on your computer instead of using a cloud-based solution, Word works well.
If you have a bit of design experience or don’t mind the steep learning curve and cost, Adobe InDesign is one of the best tools on the market for creating sophisticated page layouts. It’s not for everyone though, and if all you need to do is create a basic, simple lead magnet, InDesign isn’t the tool for you. However, it does provide the power and flexibility to create very intricate, complex layouts.
While primarily designed for creating graphics, Canva can be used to create great-looking pages, checklists, etc. This is a subscription service, but if you don’t have (or want) access to Photoshop, Affinity, etc, Canva is a great option. I personally love how many templates there are and how many types of designs can be created very quickly.
Tools for creating graphics
Text is great, but it’s best to break it up with interesting visual elements.
Creating graphics is Canva’s strong suit. This powerful tool allows users to create branded graphics of all types for blog posts, videos,eBooks and more.
Though it used to be a free-only tool, Gravit is a freemium graphic design tool that’s simple enough for beginners.
Like Canva, Stencil is a cloud-based tool for creating graphics of all types.
I love this software. I find myself using it more than Illustrator or Photoshop – even for high quality, professional work. Not that the Adobe suite is bad by any means. But Affinity’s toolset seems to be a bit more up to date and in-tune with what designers actually want.
Tools for creating an audio lead magnet
To create a decent audio lead magnet, you will need at least the following three items:
A good microphone.
Don’t skimp out on this purchase. A bad mic will produce bad audio. A high quality mic, if used correctly, can produce high quality audio.
My personal favorite mic is the Blue Yeti which I picked up at Best Buy for around $100. It’s a great, versatile microphone that lets me create some fantastic audio.
Recording / Editing software
If you’re willing to pay for editing software, you can’t go wrong with Adobe Audition, but you may not love the idea of a subscription product.
Audacity is a free editing program that will work for creating a basic audio lead magnet.
An audio web host
Once your audio file is finished, it needs to be stored somewhere. While you could store it alongside your website via your web host (i.e. SiteGround, Bluehost, etc), it’s best to have a dedicated audio host because audio can tax your web host’s bandwidth a bit too much.
The three audio hosts I would recommend include
Tools for creating a video lead magnet
Video is a powerful tool for creating a compelling lead magnet. But before you begin, you need to decide what kind of video you’re going to create.
Types of videos
- Talking head video. This is just a video of you talking.
- Whiteboard video. Just like a teacher in a classroom, the camera sees you and some kind of display behind you.
- Webcam and screen. This video shows your face and your computer screen.
- Screen only. Your face doesn’t appear in this kind of video. This is just a recording of your screen with your voice.
The video gear you need
For a talking head video or whiteboard video, you need:
- A camera that can record at minimum 1080p resolution at 30fps
- An external mic if the camera’s mic isn’t good enough.
Chances are your smartphone can meet this requirement just fine, but if videography is going to be a long-term thing, I recommend investing in a dedicated camera and mic to ensure the best quality videos for your lead magnet.
For a webcam and screen video, you’ll need a webcam (obviously!) and a program to record your screen.
- Your webcam ought to be able to record at least 1080p at 30fps, but higher resolutions and framerates are better.
- I like OBS Studio for screen recording, but any of the many available screen recording programs will work just fine.
Video editing software
Unless you’re content with your videos looking sloppy and unprofessional, you’ll need software to edit the footage you shoot.
Both free and paid software is available for editing your video lead magnet. My personal preference is Adobe Premiere, which is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud suite. Unfortunately, its price may be a deterrent for some.
Davinci Resolve is a powerful, free alternative. Resolve comes in two variants. One is free. The other is a paid upgrade. However, I can confidently recommend Resolve because it is used by both amateur videographers and professional studios alike. Even though it has a bit of a learning curve, this is a great option for those on a budget.
Hosting your videos
After you’ve edited your video, you need to put it somewhere it can be seen – but only by your subscribers.
YouTube is a nice option, but only if your video is unlisted. Otherwise anyone can find your channel or search for the video title and watch it. That would defeat the purpose of the video – which is to get people to subscribe.
Vimeo is used by many professional videographers. Unlike YouTube, there are upload limits. But these limits can be raised by opting for one of the paid membership plans.
Wistia is used by the really high end professionals, but it has a price tag to match. Wistia is intended for business users, but their paid plans start at over $100 per month.
Understanding how leads are captured
What good is a lead magnet if you can’t get it to your subscriber? That’s what we’ll discuss in this section.
However you’ve decided to host your lead magnet, you need a link to give to your subscriber or a download page with a link to click to download the file.
How you deliver your lead magnet will be determined mostly by what the lead magnet is.
But, before we get to that part, we need to talk about email service providers.
What is an email service provider?
An email service provider (or ESP) is a service whose job it is to ensure your emails are sent and delivered to your subscribers. This service handles every request to subscribe and every request to unsubscribe. It ensures that any message you send has the best chance possible of being received by your intended recipient.
But most importantly in my mind, an email service provider lets you schedule your emails to be sent on a given schedule. This is powerful.
Choosing your email service provider
Before you can start building your list, you need to sign up with an email service provider. Now, which one you choose is largely irrelevant, but I can recommend any in the list below. There are others, of course, but these are the providers I know and trust.
- GetResponse – This is the provider I have used the most. I find that GetResponse offers a nice balance between features, support and price. (Plus, if you sign up through my link, we’ll both get a $30 credit.)
- ActiveCampaign – This is a very powerful marketing platform. Since it’s so powerful, it has a steep learning curve. But if that doesn’t intimidate you, it’s a great choice.
- ConvertKit – This tool is loved by marketers of all experience levels. It’s a newer tool (compared to the others), but it offers a fully featured email marketing platform.
- Drip – Drip is powerful but expensive. It’s actually much more than an email service provider and provides a full set of tools for building a business online.
- Mailerlite – Unlike the others, this option is completely free up to 1,000 subscribers. Plus, its paid plans are better priced than many other options.
Understanding the lead capture process
In order to understand how to deliver a lead magnet, you need to understand the lead capture process. This process will be used no matter what your niche is and no matter what kind lead magnet you choose to create.
Let’s walk through what happens when someone wants to subscribe to your list.
- A visitor fills out an opt-in form. This form typically has a field for a name and an email address.
- Upon submitting the form, your visitor is redirected to an email confirmation page. This page asks the visitor to check his email for a confirmation email from your email service provider.
- If he clicks the link in the confirmation email, the visitor is added to your list as a subscriber. At this point, I like to redirect the new subscriber to a “thank you” page to thank him for signing up and to let him know
- Your first scheduled email is sent, and subsequent emails are sent as scheduled. Ideally, you want to have several emails queued up to be sent automatically. The day a new subscriber joins your list is “Day 0” for that subscriber. The next day is “Day 1” and so on. Each email service provider will vary slightly, but each provides this basic functionality. You want to deliver your lead magnet on Day 0, the same day your subscriber signs up.
Storing a lead magnet so it can be downloaded
In order to deliver your downloadable lead magnet, you need somewhere to store it first. That which isn’t stored, can’t be downloaded. Rule of the Internet number 49239.3. Don’t bother Googling that rule. I just made it up.
We have a few options for storing lead magnets online. Some are better than others.
Above, we covered a few audio and video-specific options. The storage options below will work for any type of file.
Dropbox – This is a popular file storage tool used by both consumers and businesses. Files stored here can be shared via a link.
Google Drive – Drive is Google’s answer to Dropbox. As with Dropbox, files stored here can be shared via a link.
Amazon S3 – This isn’t a free option, but it is one of my favorites. Amazon’s S3 service is an online storage bucket for files. Files can be private or public with a link. While not free, S3 provides a fast, secure way to store and transmit your lead magnet file or files to your subscriber. The cost for this service depends on how much you store and how much data is transferred each billing cycle.
Delivering a lead magnet
Your lead magnet may be something that is downloadable, or it may be something that can only be accessed online. This will, of course, factor into your decision to use one delivery method over another.
In this section, we’re going to cover how to get your lead magnet to your new subscriber. After all, a lead magnet that doesn’t make its way to a subscriber is a broken promise. Nobody wants that.
Email or instant?
Depending on your email service provider, you have the option to create a custom confirmation page. If desired, your new subscriber can be sent to this page as soon as he clicks on the link to confirm his email address.
Pictured below is the confirmation page for my email marketing course. When my visitor becomes a subscriber by clicking on the confirmation link sent by my provider, he is sent to this page to let him know he’s all good to go and that the lead magnet is about to be delivered to him.
I could, optionally, put a download link right there on my confirmation page. And some people do just that. But, I don’t think it’s the best option. In the example above, I ask my new subscriber to watch his email for an email from me with the lead magnet.
This gets him used to watching for messages from me – which has a positive impact on my open rates long term.
The “welcome” email
When your subscriber confirms his email by clicking on the confirmation link in the message sent by your email service provider, he should be sent a “welcome” email.
Your welcome email is your first and best chance to make a good impression on your new subscriber.
The contents and wording of this email can vary. But this message has a few important tasks:
- Remind subscribers how they got on your list
- Introduce you. Why can they trust you?
- Start building a relationship with your new subscriber.
- Deliver your lead magnet.
Delivering a downloadable lead magnet
Your welcome email should have a link to download your lead magnet.
This can take one of three forms. While each is effective and works well, each has its pros and cons. I do prefer one over the others for a few reasons, but I’ll let you guess which one for the moment.
The first option is to use a download page. The link in your welcome email will take your new subscriber to a page with a button or link to click to start the download.
This option requires a bit more work on your part, but it does look a bit more professional. Your download page is another place to thank your subscriber and reinforce your brand.
The second option is to link directly to your stored lead magnet file from your email. With this method, your subscriber can click on your link and immediately start downloading your lead magnet. He isn’t redirected to a download page. The file simply starts downloading through his default web browser.
The last option is to add your downloadable lead magnet to a membership site. This requires the most effort on your part, but membership sites can be great for keeping subscribers engaged – especially if you continually add new content. In order to get access to the lead magnet, each subscriber would need a username and password. This can be created automatically by most membership site software platforms.
Delivering a non-downloadable lead magnet
Your lead magnet may be one that’s best stored online somewhere. Large video files, webinar replays, etc, may be best stored online for your subscribers to access instead of being made available for download.
Just as with downloadable lead magnets, we have a few options for delivering this type of opt-in incentive.
The first option would be a hidden webpage like a download page but with no download. On this page, you would embed your video, audio, or other non-downloadable lead magnet.
The other option would be a membership site like I mentioned above. Membership sites can be tedious for the average user to set up. However, they do offer excellent flexibility and are excellent for keeping subscribers engaged.
Wrapping up this lead magnet treatise
If you read that wall of text, I applaud you. Whew. We’ve covered a lot of ground. My hope is that by now, you understand what a lead magnet is, why you need one, the basic of creating one, and how to get it to your subscribers. But further, I hope that you’ve been able to come up with some clever lead magnet ideas of your own.
I know this may seem pretty daunting for some people. We haven’t even touched the email marketing jungle in this article. There is a lot to learn, and a lot to do. But I hope that this article has been helpful for you.
Magnetic Vector, my Indianapolis marketing agency, exists to help people start, establish and grow their brands. If you need help brainstorming or writing your lead magnet, reach out. Seriously. I’d be honored to help.